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Sherri Shepherd liable for child via surrogate

December 21, 2015

A Pennsylvania appeals court agreed with a lower court ruling and determined that actress Sherri Shepherd is financially liable for a child that a surrogate birthed prior to Shepherd’s divorce from her ex. The court upheld the surrogacy contract despite Shepherd’s efforts to void it. The actress and television personality must keep paying $4,100 monthly in child support. Her ex-husband, Lamar Sally, has custody of the 1-year-old boy.

Shepherd acted in movies and various sitcoms and co-hosted “The View” on ABC between 2007 and 2014. She did not provide a comment on the legal decision.

Sally told the media that she does not want to be involved in the child’s life and as the father, he is happy to be raising the boy. Together, the couple paid more than $105,000 for a Philadelphia woman to carry the boy to term after he was conceived by Sally’s sperm with a donor egg. Of that money, Shepherd contributed more than $100,000.

However, as the marriage struggled when the birth mother approached her due date, Shepherd backed out of her involvement in the surrogacy and quit attending the woman’s medical appointments.

Originally, the birth certificate named the mother as the surrogate, and California officials initially pursued her for child support.

Pennsylvania had not previously ruled on surrogacy contracts although other states have not recognized their validity. The owner of a surrogacy clinic expressed her relief at the decision as well, stating that surrogates enter into a legal agreement with another person to carry a baby on their behalf. Implicit in surrogacy is that the gestational carrier has no rights to the child. The court held that since Shepherd admitted that she agreed to the surrogacy, she was directly responsible for the child, who would not have been born without her involvement. As such, they held that she was the legal mother.

As surrogacy and other options in parenting become increasingly common, the related legal issues will become more complex. A knowledgeable family law attorney can help clients wade through these complicated matters.